Saturday, February 26, 2011

After Kasab, another Pakistani strike ?

There are things you can do with Pakistan and things you cannot. Among the “cannot” is reasoning over the 26/11 attack on Mumbai. Pakistan's stonewalling on this issue has been so relentlessly self-serving that we should now expect a worsening of the situation. In answer to the death sentence confirmed on Ajmal Kasab, Pakistan may now show its defiance by (a) releasing Kasab's handler and the operational leader of the Mumbai attack, Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi, and (b) attempting a new 26/11 as quickly as possible.

They have three advantages while India has none. First, the Pakistani military's visceral hostility to India gives it a motivation that matches only Israel's unstoppable motivation to destroy Palestine; even if they get Kashmir on a silver platter, the war against India will continue because the need to justify Pakistan's communal birth will continue. Second, China's unconditional support enables an otherwise emasculated Pakistan to match the economic giant that is India, bomb for bomb.

The third and surprising factor is America's support to Pakistan which is as decisive as China's. America's problem is that it recognises only terror against America as terror. To fight America's war against terror, it needs Pakistan's logistical cooperation. Pakistan cleverly takes the Americans for a ride, extending cooperation one day, denying it another day. In the process, India's war against terror makes no blip on American radar. American military supplies come pouring into Pakistan with user's manuals stipulating that they fire/fly only westward, never eastward.

That's dumb. But what we should note here is that Pakistan, client state though it is, has the guts to stand up against its provider. It did so when unmanned US drones wreaked havoc in its tribal areas. It is doing so right now over a US embassy man (CIA ?), killing two Pakistanis (ISI ?). America has threatened the worst, and eventually Pakistan may yield, but not until it gets its pound of flesh.

Does India ever stand up when it is bullied, challenged, insulted? When Australian racists took it out on Indian students, when American security guards body-checked India's ambassadors because one wore a saree and another a turban, when America put radio-tags on Indian students who had valid visas, when Sri Lankans killed our fishermen, we said gravely each time that it was unacceptable. Then we went on to accept it lying down. Never once did we take action that was acceptable.

The result is : Not one country in the world respects us, to say nothing of fearing us. And fear – of military might, trade retaliation, diplomatic offensive, covert countermoves – is one of the more effective planks of international relations in today's cynical world. Our weight in this world is far below what our size, economy and potential warrant.

Pakistan knows this all too well. Pakistani leadership not only has no fear of India; it has contempt for India. This came out most tellingly when the recently ousted former Foreign Minister, Mehmood Qureshi, brought his full arrogance to bear on S.M.Krishna – with Krishna taking it in stoic silence. Civilised behaviour is wasted on the uncivilised.

Pakistan uses big words like “non-state players” to justify its inaction over 26/11. And why not? India, meak and eminently bulliable as always, is suddenly saying that it is ready for a resumption of dialogue, no conditions attached. So what happened to the earlier publicly stated policy that dialogue was meaningless when terror went unchecked ?

The answer in all likelihood lies in Washington. It does not require inside intelligence to guess that America must be pressurising India to resume normalcy with Pakistan. It doesn't take much pressurising either because Manmohan Singh's India loves nothing more than being in the good books of America.

So Pakistan is free to do what it loves more than anything else – appearing to assist America's war on terror while carrying on its own war on India. Unless India learns how to stand up, we have reasons to worry.